Modern wind turbine technology developers win 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

Henrik Stiesdal (DK) and Andrew Garrad (GB) are awarded the world’s most prestigious engineering
accolade for advances in the design, manufacture, and deployment of Modern Wind Turbine
Technology – the world’s largest rotating machines.

The 2024 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) is today awarded to Denmark’s Henrik Stiesdal and Britain’s Andrew Garrad for their achievements in advancing the design, manufacture and deployment of high-performance wind turbines –developments which have enabled wind energy to make a material contribution to global electricity generation and deliver transformational impact in diversifying the global energy mix.

Awarded annually, the QEPrize is presented to engineers responsible for ground-breaking innovations that have been of global benefit to humanity. Now in its second decade as the leading international accolade for engineering achievement, the 2024 QEPrize Laureates were announced by Lord Browne of Madingley, Chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation, during a reception at the Science Museum in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, Royal Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Over the past four decades, Stiesdal and Garrard have made seminal engineering inputs that – from demonstration to full-scale implementation – have resulted in a phenomenal increase in the size of individual wind turbines and the and the scale of the wind farms in which they are sited, as well as in their engineering an economic performance. Credited for the early technology and critical advances
as the industry has evolved, the 2024 Laureates have each pioneered a system that is present in almost all modern wind turbines operating both onshore and offshore in the market today.

Initially designed in 1978, Henrik Stiesdal is credited for a three-blade turbine that represents what is sometimes described as the Danish concept. Leading notable developments in proprietary blade manufacturing technology throughout the 90s, Stiesdal’s elegant innovation that operates upwind of the tower and allows twisting of the blades about their own axis (pitch control) has significantly
enhanced scale and efficiency of modern turbines. Further developments pioneered by Stiesdal include wind turbine blades cast in one piece, and direct-drive generators for offshore wind turbines, eliminating the need for gearboxes.

The BLADED computational design tool, pioneered by Andrew Garrad, allows engineers to model a complicated turbine system in its entirety and to predict its behaviour with the confidence needed to permit manufacture of these huge machines. It has been used all over the world and through the consultancy company he co-founded, which supported the industry through design consultancy, testing, measurements, energy evaluation and technical due diligence, has allowed the rapid expansion of the global manufacturing base. A similar analytical approach to wind farm yield pioneered widespread project finance by providing rigorous risk assessments of potential wind farm investment.

According to the International Energy Agency, wind has one of the greatest potentials to increase countries' renewable capacity growth. Solar PV and wind additions are forecast to more than double by 2028 and will constitute an unprecedented 96% of overall renewable power capacity expansion as cost competitiveness improves.

In December of last year, wind power accounted for 41.2% of the overall share of the UK energy mix, its highest ever level – while gas- fired generation constituted its lowest share in four years. This steep growth trajectory has been made possible by the revolutionary improvements in wind energy pioneered by the 2024 QEPrize laureates. Advances in Modern Wind Turbine Technology have transformed the cost, availability and scalability of wind power generation and will play a central role in meeting global energy demand and transitioning to a zero-emissions electricity system.

“It is an honour to receive the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering alongside Andrew. To me, it represents much more than personal recognition; it is a tribute to the collective efforts of pioneers and engineers in wind power. Since the late 1970s they embodied the essence of this Prize, creating bold, ground-breaking innovations delivering sustainable and competitive energy, addressing climate
change and providing global benefits for humanity. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to contribute to this development, and I look forward with eagerness to the future growth of wind power, driven by the dedication of new generations of engineers.” – Henrik Stiesdal

“Wind energy has been with us for millennia, but in the last 50 years, it entered a new era. The 10m diameter turbines of my early professional life have become the 250m giants of today – simply amazing! What could possibly be more exciting for an engineer? I count myself as extraordinarily lucky to have been part of that transition. To be awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is a wonderful bonus to an already fascinating career. I am personally, immensely proud, but Henrik and I see ourselves as representatives of a much bigger group of people who have made wind energy an essential part oof our zero-carbon future and we have, all of us together, earned this Prize.” – Andrew Garrad